Half of American adults have seen direct relatives imprisoned, study claims

The US has the highest incarceration per capita in the world

Clark Mindock
New York
Friday 07 December 2018 00:32 GMT
(AFP/Getty Images)

Roughly one in every two American adults has or has had an immediate family member incarcerated, according to a new report.

The report is based on research by advocacy group FWD.us and Cornell University, which found that one in seven American adults were related to an individual who had spent over a year in prison, with minorities hit particularly hard.

The study also said that one in 34 adults in the US is related to someone who has spent 10 or more years in prison.

“These numbers are stunning, all the more so if you think of them not as numbers but as stories like mine,” Felicity Rose, the director of research and policy for criminal justice reform at FWD.us, said in a forward to the report.

She continued: “One of the worst parts of growing up with my father in and out of prison was the isolation and shame I felt. I hope that this new research energizes reform efforts and that it can help the millions of people who have also experienced family incarceration feel a little less alone this holiday season”.

One in five Americans, the report says, has had a parent incarcerated, like Ms Rose.

The report finds that incarceration impacts people in all walks of life — Democrats and Republicans are similarly likely to find themselves behind bars, for instance — but that the burden is felt more heavily in communities of colour and in low-income families.

The US jails more people per capita than any other country in the world, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, which estimates that more than 2.3 million are incarcerated in the country.

The US has 716 people in jail or prison per every 100,000 in the country. That is in contrast to countries like the UK, where 147 people are incarcerated per every 100,000.

FWD has found that 10 million people go into and out of local jails a year, and have done so for the past couple of decades.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

The new report finds that black families are 50 per cent more likely than white families to have had a family member incarcerated for 10 or more years. Latino families were 70 per cent more likely than whit families to have a family member jailed for a year or longer.

Meanwhile, lower income adults with an annual salary of $25,000 (£19,000) or below were 61 per cent more likely to have a family member incarcerated.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in